Law enforcers’ crackdown on independent media; successes of the digital economy
Law enforcers have stepped up pressure on independent journalism, and continued to persecute the REP trade union and Kurapaty protest leaders. Such actions may have a negative impact on Belarus’ investment image amid positive effects the decree on digital economy had on IT development in recent months.
In the past, the Belarusian authorities primarily targeted unregistered media in Belarus, such as belaruspartisan.org, charter97.org and Belsat. This time, law enforcers searched and detained independent journalists from BelaPAN, the largest independent news agency, TUT.BY, the leading information portal and Realt.by, a real estate portal on charges of hacking BelTA, the government-owned news agency.
In Belarus, independent online media outperform the state media, as the latter often late with their reports and fail to convince Internet audiences. Ultimately, tension, mutual claims and, consequently, the gap between the state and independent media has widened.
Meanwhile, the hearing of the trade union leaders case is ongoing. Law enforcers have put pressure on the witness who refused to testify in court. In addition, the authorities continued to persecute Kurapaty protest leaders with arrests: Paval Sevyarynets was sentenced to a 10-day arrest for holding a press conference in Kurapaty.
Law enforcers’ actions have been detrimental to Belarus’ international image while reformists struggle to improve her investment appeal. The unravelling spiral of repression has prompted an extremely negative response in the world and increased tension in Belarusian society.
Nevertheless, the progressive decree on the digital economy, signed in late 2017, has had a positive impact on the IT sector. Production volumes and sales of the High Technology Park in Q1 2018 increased by one third. In addition, more than 100 new companies became the HTP residents in January – May 2018.
Law enforcers appear to have shifted the focus from the corruption persecution on to the opposition, independent media and trade unions.